Identifying and developing potential: What we need to do differently

Identifying and developing potential: What we need to do differently

21.02.2018 By Anja Sbanski

It’s long been established that for future success, organisations need to explore the attributes of their workforce, identify top talent, and put in place processes to develop them. When the top performing 20% account for as much as 80% of organisational output, identifying and developing people with high potential at all levels in your workforce should be a no-brainer.

By Anja Sbanski, Potential Solution Lead Architect & Country Manager

There’s a wealth of evidence that proves the enormous value of top performers. But despite this body of proof, the ability to effectively identify potential is still a distant dream for many talent management teams. Why do so many employers still struggle to identify their rising stars? And how can you solve these problems to ensure that your high potential employees can achieve the future success they’re capable of?

Potential is a topic we get pretty excited about here at Cubiks. I’m often chatting with our team about the challenges of assessing potential, so I thought I’d share what some of them said in response to the questions above.

Grow vs Buy

In recent years there has been a shift in resourcing philosophy; organisations under budgeting pressure are increasingly looking to grow talent, rather than buying it in. These employers can see the value of sourcing talent internally, and many are even starting to assess potential at the point of hire. There are huge benefits to this approach, including; greater consistency, better continuity, minimal disruption and less need for training external hires.

David Lawton, Cubiks CTO says:

“We’ve seen a significant increase in employers wanting to take a different approach to HiPo programmes. They’re aiming to bring in lots of good ‘raw material’ at junior levels, with the ambition of engaging, developing and retaining these people. The idea is to bring them up through the organisation rapidly, creating a strong talent pipeline to replace senior level employees when the time comes.”

It’s not only about leadership

Defining ‘potential’ is a hot topic in the context of talent management today. Traditionally, high potentials were seen as the rapid risers; the people who accelerated faster than their peers. But lately, as organisational structures shift, ideas about potential have too. Nowadays, we don’t only look at those able to move vertically at speed. While great leaders are as important as ever, a lot more attention is now being paid to those able to grow in the more technical and expert roles.

Hannah Olsen, an assessment expert in our US team says :

"Understanding potential is about exploring the extent to which an individual has the motivation and capability to take on roles of greater complexity. When assessing potential, it is about predicting future performance.  In such cases, it is important to specify the timeframe for the assessment; companies are often interested in understanding potential over a 3-5 year horizon."

A holistic approach is essential

In the past, high potential programmes have often been fragmented initiatives, conducted as one-off events separate from the overall employee lifecycle. Today’s employers understand that assessing and developing potential needs to be an embedded part of their talent management strategies. To really find and capitalise on the potential in your workforce, you need a complete solution – rather than a one-off assessment.

A good assessment partner will support you from start to finish. Beginning by pinning down what potential means within your business and helping you communicate about the programme to your stakeholders. Once that’s done, you can identify your high potentials with rigorous assessments. After that, they will make sure you can use the assessment data to build effective development plans, ensuring your high potentials stay on the development fast track.

Solving potential assessment problems: How Cubiks can help

Offering complete support for the entire talent lifecycle, we’ll help you identify those most essential to your organisation’s future success and accelerate their development.

  • Establish a common language for and understanding of what potential is throughout your organisation
  • Create a more objective and inclusive approach to potential assessment
  • Boost efficiency, allocating necessary resources where they have the highest impact
  • Continuously improve the process by sharing best practice and working with reliable data (via our People Analytics add-on).


If you’d like to find out more about our Potential Assessment Solution, get in touch with your local Cubiks team or email and we’ll get back to you.

Participate in our webinar on Potential: Wednesday 11th April at 10:00 BST

If you've got a question you'd like us to answer, or you'd like to pre-register to attend, please email

How to assess high potential employees
How to motivate high potential employees

About Anja

Anja heads up Cubiks’ German team. With 15 years of experience in the potential field, she now specialises in equipping international businesses to find their top talents and support them in reaching their full potential. Anja is driven by her belief that potential plays a vital role in any organisation’s rise or fall.

You can contact Anja by email here or connect with her on LinkedIn.